Black American University students posted candid reminders as many around the world celebrated the Associated Press projecting victory for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Saturday.
While he opted to avoid the large crowds celebrating in D.C., sophomore Malik Gomes Cruz says this was a huge win for the future of the country.
“I think, if anything, what I’m celebrating during this election is hope,” Gomes Cruz said. “I think what it has shown is that, despite all of the barriers that are set in place for people of color, Black women and queers especially, that there is a way forward.”
This election was historic, to say the least. Kamala Harris will become the first woman, Black person and Asian American person to occupy the vice presidency. Simultaneously, 87% of Black people voted Democrat, helping to swing states crucial to Biden’s projected win like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia, according to NBC News.
But Gomes Cruz clarified this in no way serves as an excuse to “no longer be active in fighting for justice and equality for minorities.”
He turned to his Instagram story on Saturday afternoon to highlight the complexities of this win for Black people.
“I would hear people talk about how they can relax now and ‘Oh yeah, it’s over!’ ” he said. “So I felt compelled to remind people that while they celebrate, to also understand what is allowing them to celebrate.”
Gomes Cruz said 15 of his peers reposted and responded to his post and he felt he echoed the sentiments of many students of color.
For senior Jada Olsen, these sentiments rang true as she and her friends danced, sang and celebrated throughout the day on Saturday.
“I was all about people celebrating as much as they wanted to, more because it’s a pandemic and I don’t even remember the last time we were collectively this happy,” Olsen said. “I was kind of like let’s all revel in the joy of this...and celebrate this moment of community.”
As she saw other people celebrating on social media, she says she also felt compelled to articulate important things to remember.
Olsen says she posted a number of memes to remind viewers to stay active beyond the election, continue to recognize that systemic issues are not tied to one political figure and to not “romanticize” Joe Biden or Kamala Harris.
The humor of the memes reflected the “moment of exhale” Olsen says she experienced while still promoting important discourses.
“I think that a lot of people will use this election to be a lot more complacent and not really thinking about critiquing our government or taking that extra step to do something in our communities,” she said.
Though Olsen still encourages voting, she says she hopes this election has revealed voting will not be the solution to the issues popularized this summer. From mutual aid funds to grassroots work and food and clothing drives, Olsen says she hopes people prioritize giving back to their communities.
“You can carry that out at any time, you don’t have to be waiting for something,” she said.
First-year and AUSG Senator Kayla Kelly isn’t waiting. In fact, she isn’t celebrating.
“I honestly felt kind of empty,” Kelly said. “I knew that either way with either candidate it wasn’t going to be safe for us.”
Kelly used her social media to remind people of the histories of these candidates, specifically some of their efforts to criminalize Black people, immigrants, trans people and sex workers.
When Kelly expressed these sentiments and her fears that the support of movements would dissipate, she said some of her white peers gaslit her for not celebrating the moment and being critical of “performative allyship.”
Moving forward, she encourages her white allies to go beyond placing BLM or ACAB in their bios and to “be my partner in executing this.”
As she begins her senator position in the spring, Kelly is mobilizing AU students on a number of efforts. This year, she started an organization called Behind Books that sends books mainly to incarcerated people of color. Additionally, she started a “Heal Da Homies” mutual aid fund to create care packages and fund community fridges.
Next semester she’ll work on adopting legislation to offset AU’s disability accommodation fees and create language that denounces hate speech and symbols.
Above all, she emphasizes that people and communities are in need today and everyone must work to give back to them.
“We have spent the summer reading these abolitionist works, going to all of these webinars and having these conversations,” she said. “Now, it’s time to put those words into action.”